Rovos Rail

Pretoria, South Africa | C.1989

Photo Credit: Stacie Flinner

Rovos Rail offers a unique method of traveling through some of Africa’s most incredible sights. The Rovos Rail is no ordinary passenger train, instead it operates a luxurious “train hotel” that has various routes throughout Southern Africa, from South Africa to Namibia and Tanzania.

Run out of the Capital Park Station in Pretoria, South Africa the trains consist of restored Rhodesia Railways (NRZ) coaches. The trains accommodate two lounges, two restaurant cars, a viewing car, and private sleeping compartments for its guests. Each train car is named after the members of the owner, Rohan Vos’ family. Train cars are all handpicked and restored, giving them all a distinctively charming character.

The train hotel project began in 1985 when Rohan and Anthea took up a last-minute invitation on a Magaliesberg train trip for business suppliers. That same year, influenced by his friend Phil Acutt’s love of trains and the work done by the Railway Preservation Society in Witbank, Rohan attended an auction to buy a few coach cars. The intention was to restore four carriages and hitch them to a South African Railways train as a family caravan.

The first engine they acquired was the No. 2702 Bianca, a Class 19D locomotive built by Borsig in 1938. It was purchased in 1986 from Loewenthal’s Scrap Metal. Dunn’s Locomotive in Witbank was commissioned to return the 50-year old workhorse to running condition.

The Rovos Rail staff carried out cosmetic improvements, including a superb paint job, making Rovos Rail’s first loco a beautiful sight. No. 2701 ‘Brenda’, a Class 19D locomotive with coincidentally a number just one digit away from Bianca, was bought from Chick’s Scrap Metal while staged at Volksrust in Natal and restored at the workshops in Witbank.

The Rovos Family needed a location for their trains to disembark. In 1999 with restored train cars in tow, the once abandoned Capital Park Station was officially reopened as the new Capital Park Station and continues to serve as the departure and arrival point for all Rovos train journeys. The christening ceremony was performed by Rohan’s mother, Mrs. Marjorie Vos, as she cracked a bottle of champagne across the ‘bows’ of Class 25NC No 3484. The company remains family owned today with a staff of 210 employees, including an on-board staff who work to restore carriages in the company’s Capital Park depot.

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